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Why Doesn’t Starfall work on my iPad?

So you have your iPad and ready to use it in the classroom. Finally, your students will have the chance to practice their reading at their desks only to find that your favorite sites don’t work on the iPad!

Why? Many sites use Flash animations to work their games and interactive books. Popular iOS browsers such as Safari do support this type of program and there for the content will be viewable on your iPad. Some sites have started making apps that match the content on their web browsers but there is another way…

Try downloading Puffin. This is a free iOS web browser that will play Flash content.

Know any other browsers to recommend? Share in the comments section below!

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Review: Adobe Voice

Adobe has recently release its own story telling app. Although there are many in the app store this one offers a few unique benefits for teachers and students. Following the Universal Design for Learning model, using Voice can help provide students with a means of expression.

Voice follows a familiar “slide” format however it has pre- made templates for the following: Promote an Idea, Tell What Happened, Explain Something, Follow a Hero’s Journey, Show and Tell, Share a Growth Moment, Teach a Lesson, Share an Invitation, or Make Up My Own. Each template comes with a range of slides (5-8) that asks the user to answer a particular question on that slide. This is great for students who just don’t know where to start and what to say.

Within each template, students may add icons (provided by The Noun Project), photos, and text (No video). They are then able to record audio narration that follows the visual support. Once all the slides are built, the presentation can be customized by themes and background music can be added to run throughout. The great benefit of this app is that it provides rich variety of content within it. When adding photos, a student may search and Voice will only provide images tagged as having a Creative Commons License.

Once you are ready to publish, the project can either be public or private and all attributions are inserted automatically. This is a great pro for this app in getting users to give credit where credit is due.

Understood.org- A Site for Teachers, Parents and Students Affected by Learning Disabilities

One of the reasons I am so invested in the use of technology in the schools in exactly for the benefit it offers students with learning disabilities. There are many students sitting in classrooms all over the world right now struggling to fit themselves into the box. Technology opens the doors for students to better access what they need to know and also show their teachers and the world what they have learned.

This is one reason why I am so excited to hear about the launch of Understood.org in August 2014. This site is a partnership among multiple organizations helping students with learning disabilities and will be clearinghouse for resources, support groups, and events. The feature I am most looking forward to will be examples of just what the world looks like for students with learning disabilities when they read, write, and compute.

Stay tuned for updates…

Vox- Understand the News

From the makers of The Verge and Curbed a new venture in news: Vox. The mission of this site is to provide background knowledge and explain current new and events. Could this become a great classroom tool to help students understand current events? Stay tuned for updates when the site launches.

Update: Vox is up and running with a variety of articles, timelines, and card stacks that explain the history and background information for some of the current events. Check out this stack on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

Two more explanatory journalism sites were also recently released:

The New York Times launched The Upshot with emphasis on data analysis and infographics.

FiveThirtyEight brought to you by the all knowing Nate Silver is also heavy on answering your burning questions like: “Do April Showers Bring May Flowers?”- using data, data, data.

Free Weekly PD for Teachers via Lynda

In my quest to learn how to make wonderful infographics I finally joined the online learning community of Lynda.com. This site offers a large variety of professionally made training videos in a variety of mostly business and design related software and techniques.

In my browsing, I stumbled upon a wonderful resource: Teacher Tips with Aaron Quigley. He covers a variety of topics ranging from the flipped classroom, to web based programs, and how to best use Microsoft Office and Google Drive as a teacher. Although Lynda is a paid subscription, Aaron’s tips are available for free the week they are posted. Lessons are short and highly relevant. Well worth the time investment.

Finally! An App Smashing Solution for PDF Annotation with Text OCR

=  SUCCESS!

One of the most challenging classroom tasks to modify for students with learning disabilities is the dreaded worksheet. Although there are multiple apps that will take a picture of a document and OCR (object character recognition) the text the formatting of the document is lost. Translation- you can take a picture of page and have it read back to you but it won’t look like the page you scanned.

Solution!
PDFpen Scan+ ($4.99) now allows you to take a picture of a document (single or multi-page), crop it to the desired dimensions, modify the contrast and then OCR the text on the page. Once this file is complete you can open the document in any PDF annotation app (many free options available). This will allow the student to press hold the text on the document and use the iOS built in speech to text accessibility feature to read back the text on the page. They can then annotate the document using a pen, type in text to fill in the blanks, or use audio recording (depends on the PDF annotation app) to complete this worksheet.

A bit of warning though: this solution does require an app savvy student and the OCR is not full proof.

Lingua.ly Chrome Extension for Building Vocabulary

Lingua.ly is a great extension built for developing vocabulary in a new foreign language but also works great to develop vocabulary for struggling students.

The concept is simple and works great. An account is created with an initial set up process. The student chooses their native language and language to learn (for this case both are set to English) and once set up is complete the student is ready to read any web content.

When a student lands on an unfamiliar word, they may double click the word. A simple definition comes up and the word is pronounced for the reader. The word then remains highlighted on the webpage.

For further review and practice, students can log into their Lingua.ly account and either read new content based on the words previously selected or practice flash card type games with these collected words.

Here is a video highlighting the basic functions:

Use the Copy Machine in the Office to Go Paperless

The next time you go make copies for the class check out the machine to see if you can insert a USB drive somewhere on the front or side of the machine. If you see it, you are in luck! You can now use the copy machine and the built in feeder to scan in student work, handouts from workshops (all those PowerPoint slide presentations), or other stacks of paper you want to have available just in case; without cluttering up the classroom.

Simply insert your USB drive into the port and select the “Scan” button on the copier. You can customize the file type (PDF probably is the most useful), resolution size, and other options. Press the start button as you normally would.

You can then invest in cloud storage like dropbox, google drive, or box to store this paperwork in the cloud. Your documents are then available anywhere you are when you need them.

GoNoodle- Get Your Kids on Track to Learn!

Ahhhhhhhh! This is the best thing since sliced bread! As a school based OT I constantly nag about providing movement breaks for students during the day and the benefits of exercise for learning.  There is much to get done during the day and for most teachers this is something out of their comfort zone that they are not very familiar with. In addition, teaching a whole class new routines and keeping them engaged is a challenge a teacher may not want to take on.

In comes GoNoodle to the rescue. GoNoodle is a free site that provides short re-focusing movement activities. The class chooses an avatar and earns fitness points with each activity they complete. Airtime is my favorite in which students are asked to blow a bubble across the country. Deep breathing is highly calming and the students learn geography at the same time. There are also energizing activities in case your class is falling asleep.

The one downfall I see is the use of YouTube videos for additional content. These are blocked by my school’s filters.

Happy moving and breathing everyone!